Unhealthy Vegan, the brand new true-crime documentary collection on Netflix, opens with the tantalising promise of a cathartic story of comeuppance. A lady—blonde, dainty—will get her male oppressor on the cellphone and tells him (on digital camera!) that she’s been contacted to seem in a Netflix documentary about what he did to her. He forbids from collaborating, and points a chilling menace. “I’m not somebody to be f**ked with,” he says. Little does he know that the girl lied; the documentary has already begun. She’s on it, and now, so is he.
Deceit and untruths outlined the connection that the girl, a hotshot restaurateur named Sarma Melngailis, had with the appropriately named Anthony Strangis, a mysterious man who wandered into her life, and with guarantees of a literal ‘fortunately ever after’ accompanied her on a journey that will take them 1000’s of miles away from the New York haute delicacies scene, and culminate with their arrest in a Tennessee resort room. It’s a narrative that has obscure connections to the CIA and entails a person who claimed to carry the important thing to immortality; there are allusions to the plot of a Marvel film and even a fast cameo by Alec Baldwin.
However the 30 Rock star wasn’t the one celeb that Sarma hobnobbed with when she turned the pioneer of uncooked vegan meals. Her NYC restaurant was a hotspot for the wealthy and the well-known, with a visitor listing that included the likes of Owen Wilson, Tom Brady and even a former President. However it was by Baldwin that Sarma met Anthony Strangis.
The truth that he didn’t take a look at all like his social media photographs was maybe the primary, and in hindsight, the flimsiest purple flag about him. He claimed that he was a black ops agent, and would periodically go off the grid for days at a time. However we’ve seen this film earlier than, haven’t we? We’ve seen The Tinder Swindler; we’ve listened to the Pricey John podcast. Simply final month, we even examine the Odiya uncle who married 14 girls in seven states. We all know what occurs subsequent: the man performs an elaborate confidence trick, and slowly begins milking the mark for cash. And that’s precisely what Anthony did a number of months into his ‘relationship’ with Sarma. However that’s the place it will get bizarre.
Anthony fed her some mumbo jumbo about reincarnation and turning into immortal, and satisfied her that her enterprise and money owed are meaningless. She is supposed to be the ‘queen’ of a mystical home to which Anthony belongs, he instructed her. And to change into a member, she should bear a ‘bodily transformation’ and take part in ‘cosmic endurance assessments’ that Sarma later realised mimicked the plot of the Marvel film Thor.
It’s becoming that when the ultimate credit roll, director Chris Smith (Fyre, Tiger King) chooses to play Cat Stevens’ Wild World. It truly is a wild world on the market, and what’s most gorgeous, particularly in the event you’re on the surface trying in, is how simple it’s to be taken for a trip. In contrast to the latest The Tinder Swindler, which (accurately) by no means blamed the victims—that’s the significance of getting a girl director’s gaze—Unhealthy Vegan, in its last episode, turns the tables on Sarma. She believed that showing on the collection would possibly absolve her of the position that she performed in all this, however the present had different plans.
Sarma, we’re instructed, funnelled cash from her enterprise into Anthony’s account. Over the course of their relationship, she gave him almost $2 million, and watched as her flourishing enterprise crumbled earlier than her eyes. She was sued by her staff, her traders, and everybody in between. And when the going obtained robust, she selected to run away with Anthony. On the lam from authorities, the previous vegan princess was arrested after putting an order for, of all issues, a Dominos pizza.
Each time Sarma’s requested (appropriately) why she by no means raised the alarm, or why she ignored her pals’ warnings about Anthony, she deflects. And though the quite a few voice recordings (and a few video) that the collection makes use of to punctuate the voices of a number of speaking heads paint a somewhat damning image of how Anthony manipulated her, Unhealthy Vegan presents a concept in episode 4—through others, in fact—that basically throws Sarma underneath the bus.
Whereas some would little doubt nonetheless imagine that Sarma was brainwashed by Anthony’s cult-leader ramblings, there are others which might be certain that they have been on some kind of Bonnie and Clyde rampage. However no matter her motivations, the present does spotlight a few cultural truths that will probably be of nice curiosity to a non-white viewers. For example, tales equivalent to this all the time have a component of white guilt. Sarma is commonly described as a ‘beneficiant’ soul; considered one of her closest pals is a person she met on the streets. And it’s nearly a on condition that the household won’t intrude. If this had occurred right here, you’d have a military of kinfolk in your aspect. As if to show this concept, it’s revealed that Anthony was conning Sarma’s mom on the aspect as nicely. Come to consider it, asking us to empathise with these people would’ve been one heck of a bridge to cross.
In contrast to a whole lot of these true crime documentaries, Unhealthy Vegan doesn’t offer you a uncomfortable tummy ache for having fun with it. Fittingly, it’s guilt-free, moral leisure.
Unhealthy Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.
Director – Chris Smith
Ranking – 4/5